Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday got initiated into the Lingayat sect by the seer of Muruga Mutt in Chitradurga district in central Karnataka in the presence of various party leaders.
After a conversation with Lingayat seers of various mutts, the seer of Muruga Mutt, Shivamurthy Muruga Sharana initiated him into Lingayat sect.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Karnataka, where assembly elections are due in April-May next year, considers Lingayats as its key vote-base.
"It is an absolute honour to visit Sri Jagadguru Murugharajendra Vidyapeetha and receive the 'Ishtalinga Deekshe' from Dr. Sri Shivamurthy Murugha Sharanaru", Gandhi tweeted.
"The teachings of Guru Basavanna are eternal and I am humbled to learn more about it from the Sharanaru of the Math", he added.
“On this historic occasion today at the Muruga Mutt, the Muruga Sharanaru gave the 'Ishta Linga Deeksha' to Rahul Gandhi. This is an extraordinary moment,” a Mutt official said.
State Congress chief D K Shivakumar was among those present on the occasion.
The pontiff put ‘Shiva Linga' around Gandhi's neck and put the three lines of 'Vibhuti' (ash) on his forehead horizontally as worn by the Lingayats, the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee said in a statement.
On the occasion, Gandhi said, “I have been following a little bit and reading a little bit about Basavanna Ji for some time now. So, it's a real honour for me.”
“I will make a request to you if you can send me somebody to teach me a little more in detail about 'Ishta Linga' and the practice of Shiva Yoga,” he urged the Muruga Mutt seer.
Shivakumar said, “This is a historic occasion. Muruga Sri gave Deeksha (initiation) to Rahul Gandhi just as he initiated you all. I often say that the crux of all the faiths is one. There can be many names but the ultimate goal is one.”
Gandhi also paid homage to the previous heads of the Muruga Mutt. He then had an interaction with seers of various Lingayat mutts at the Muruga Mutt, the KPCC said.
The Lingayat sect was founded in the 12th century by social reformer and poet Basaveshwara, who has a huge following in Karnataka and some neighbouring regions of the state such as Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
The northern part of Karnataka is largely dominated by Lingayats.
Gandhi arrived in Karnataka on Tuesday to take part in the Political Affairs Committee meeting of Congress at Hubballi, and also the 75th birthday celebrations of the former Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah at Davanagere on Wednesday.
At the PAC meeting on Tuesday night, Gandhi had a discussion with Congress leaders from Karnataka regarding preparation for the 2023 assembly election.